Federal Judge Says Illinois Same-Sex Couple Can Marry Early

| Tue Nov. 26, 2013 12:06 PM EST

Last week, Illinois became the sixteenth state to legalize same-sex marriage. Though the law isn't scheduled to take effect until June 1, 2014, one couple has been granted permission to marry seven months early. 

A federal judge has ordered that an expedited marriage license be issued to Vernita Gray—who has terminal breast cancer—and her longtime partner Patricia Ewert. Gray, 64 and Ewert, 65, who have been together for five years, will become the first same-sex couple to be legally wed in Illinois. 

"I have two cancers, bone and brain and I just had chemo today," Gray told NBC Chicago. "I am so happy to get this news. I’m excited to be able to marry and take care of Pat, my partner and my family, should I pass."

On Friday, two days after Governor Pat Quinn signed the marriage equality bill, Ewert and Gray, who isn't expected to live until June, filed a lawsuit with Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights legal organization, seeking permission to marry immediately. On Monday, US District Judge Thomas Durkin agreed and ordered Cook County Clerk David Orr to issue the couple a marriage license.

"As a supporter of same-sex marriage, I'm pleased Judge Durkin granted relief to Patricia Ewert and Vernita Gray in this difficult time," Orr said in a statement to the Chicago Tribune.

Though they've been in a civil union since 2011, Gray and Ewert do not enjoy the full protections of marriage. “I believe the most important thing for Vernita was to be able to protect Pat,” a close friend of the couple told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And with Social Security and federal benefits and how estates are handled in a marriage, it really makes them full-class citizens in Illinois."

Read US District Judge Thomas Durkin's ruling below: